Thursday, October 23, 2008

UNL Cancels Ayers Speech After Threats

Today's Omaha World-Herald contains an explanation from Chancellor Harvey Perlman regarding the reasons behind his decision to cancel a scheduled speech by William Ayers.

The university on Wednesday released a report from the assessment team, after being asked for more detail on the threats that prompted Perlman's action. Ayers had been scheduled to speak at an education conference in November...

Mario Scalora, a professor of psychology who serves on the campus threat assessment team and wrote the report, conceded that the report contains no direct threat against the life of Ayers or anyone involved.

But it contains some veiled threats that were called and e-mailed to university officials. Scalora said the person who took the "it will be done" message "was rather concerned given the way the person said it."

The report also contains some violent statements posted anonymously on message boards. One from "Lee Harvey Cornhusker" said, "Give me a sniper rifle and a good firing position."

While not directly threatening, Scalora said, the communications attested to the amount of anger that Ayers' visit had incited - anger that made it clear that considerable security measures would have to be made.

"When people spout off a death threat, you can manage that," Scalora said. "It's more you have a bunch of angry people saying they're going to show up and be disruptive. . . . We realized it would require a considerable amount of security."

Scalora said adequate security most likely could have been provided to enable the appearance to go on. But it would have totally changed the nature of the event, which was supposed to be a small conference of education students studying education reform.

"We could have turned it into an armed camp, and it would have happened," Scalora said. "But it would have been difficult for all those present, and there were still concerns with how things would evolve."

Scalora said the committee recommended that for the event to go ahead, a change of location and substantial security, including state and local law enforcement, would be required. The final call, Scalora said, was the chancellor's.

Why isn't this bigger news? The largest state university in Nebraska cancels a speech due to to "a bunch of angry people saying they're going to show up and be disruptive" and a message board posting indicating a desire to get a rifle and a good spot to shoot and no one asks who these people are or what threats they pose?

Imagine the reaction if G. Gordon Liddy were scheduled to speak and threats forced the University to cancel the event. What would be the reaction?

Apparently the "anonymity" of blogs and message boards is a barrier to any "investigation" of these threats. Quoting UNL Police Chief Owen Yardley the article states:

UNL police will investigate some of the threats, but it will be difficult to track people who sent e-mails or posted on blogs, Yardley said.

I.F. Stone used to summarize his speeches by saying that the audience would likely forget most of what he said but that it should remember one thing: "All Governments Lie."

Will someone please examine both these "threats" and these claims and tell us whether either is true?

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